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How to Clean a Deck with Pressure Washer – Best Guide in 2023

Attachments, best pressure washers, Buyers Guide, cleaning guide, deck pressure washing, electric pressure washers, Gutters, How to clean a deck, Pressure Washer, Wands

How to Clean a Deck with Pressure Washer

Pressure washing is a cheap, energy-saving and efficient way to give your old deck a new lease of life. However, please proceed with caution and take some time to familiarize yourself with the equipment and always put safety first.

A well-maintained deck not only enhances the aesthetics of your outdoor space but also ensures its longevity. Cleaning your deck is a crucial part of that maintenance routine. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the steps of how to clean a deck properly, ensuring it remains a welcoming retreat for years to come.

How to clean a deck is maybe something you’ve been putting off for a while, but if the garden hose is no longer getting the job done, it may be time to invest in some power.

Rent or Buy?

The first decision is whether to rent or purchase a pressure washer. If you rent one, the costs are reasonable and usually start at around $40 per day. You’d be better off buying because pressure washers start at around $100 and are very inexpensive.

Setting Up Your Pressure Washer and How to Clean a Deck

How to Clean a Deck with Pressure Washer - Best Guide in 2023

Once you get your pressure washer and you’ve practiced with it enough to be comfortable, you should decide on your pressure setting and what nozzle (or spray tip) you’ll need.

While it’s tempting to use a high-pressure setting such as 2,000 PSI (pounds per square inch), the truth is that wood simply doesn’t need that much pressure.

In fact, if your deck is made out of softwood such as pine or cedar, you should stick with 500 to 600 PSI. Hardwoods can take a little more pressure, but you should still use no more than 1,200 PSI on those.

As far as your nozzle goes, you should use either a fan tip with a 40 to 60-degree spread or a rotating tip; however, the latter requires that you use it with caution and care. Even if the wood on your deck is hard, you should still start with 500 to 600 PSI and work up slowly from there.

Each type of wood is different, and it’s always better to start with a low PSI and work up slowly to the number that’s right for you. While you’re at it, make sure you never spray any closer than six inches from the deck itself. If you spray closer than that, it can harm or damage the wood.

How to Clean a Deck with Pressure Washer

woman pressure washing a deck

How to Clean a Deck: Step-by-Step Guide

1. Gather Your Supplies

Before you start, gather the necessary supplies:

  • A broom or brush
  • A garden hose
  • Deck cleaner or a mixture of water and mild soap
  • A deck brush or pressure washer (if available)
  • Safety gear: gloves, goggles, and appropriate clothing

2. Clear the Deck

Remove any furniture, potted plants, or other items from the deck. Sweep away loose dirt, leaves, and debris.

3. Pre-wet the Deck

Using a garden hose or a pressure washer on a low setting, pre-wet the deck’s surface. This helps the cleaning solution penetrate the wood effectively.

4. Apply Deck Cleaner

Mix the deck cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions, or use a mixture of water and mild soap. Apply the solution to the deck surface, focusing on areas with stains, mildew, or mold.

5. Scrub the Deck

Using a deck brush or a scrubbing attachment on a pressure washer, scrub the deck’s surface thoroughly. Pay extra attention to stubborn stains and heavily soiled areas.

6. Rinse Thoroughly

Rinse the deck with a garden hose or pressure washer on a low setting. Ensure all cleaning solution and debris are completely removed. Be mindful not to use excessive pressure, as it can damage the wood.

7. Allow to Dry

Let the deck air dry completely before replacing furniture and accessories. This may take a few hours or longer, depending on the weather conditions.

8. Apply Sealant or Stain (Optional)

To maintain your deck’s longevity and beauty, it’s advisable to apply a deck sealant or stain after completing the essential process of how to clean a deck. This additional step acts as a protective shield, safeguarding your deck against the elements and wear and tear.

Safety is paramount when embarking on the journey of how to clean a deck. Pressure washers, although effective, can pose risks if not handled with care. To ensure a secure cleaning process, please refer to our comprehensive article on deck cleaning safety tips.

Prioritize safety by wearing appropriate attire, including long pants, sturdy-soled shoes, and protective goggles. Remove any jewelry and avoid loose clothing while operating your pressure washer.

Most importantly, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter because the manufacturer knows more about your pressure washer than anyone else. Most of the accidents that occur each year could’ve been avoided by following these simple rules.

Now, let’s prepare the deck itself, a critical step in the process of how to clean a deck. Start by diligently sweeping away all debris and clearing the deck of any objects, such as furniture or fragile items. A pristine deck surface is the canvas for your pressure washer’s magic.

If you choose to use a deck cleaner at this point, it can help to loosen up some of the stuck-on dirt, grime, and debris that’s there, and you can place this cleaner in the pressure washer itself. Feel free to add some cleaning detergent as well, whether you use a deck cleaner or not.

As you clean your deck, you should start at the house and clean the boards outward from there. Always work with the grain and spray lengthwise (parallel to the boards themselves) while slightly overlapping each area.

By following these steps on how to clean a deck and adhering to safety guidelines, you can maintain the beauty and durability of your outdoor space for years to come.

directing spray on wooden decking

When learning how to clean a deck, it’s crucial to maintain an appropriate distance between the pressure washer wand and the deck’s surface. Ideally, keep the wand approximately two feet away for optimal results.

While you can inch a bit closer when tackling stubborn debris, it’s essential to exercise caution and avoid getting too close to prevent potential wood damage.

In your quest to discover how to clean a deck effectively, consider employing a stiff brush to assist in spreading the cleaner thoroughly, especially in railings and tight corners. To prevent unsightly streaks, ensure that the detergent never dries on the surface.

Once your comprehensive deck cleaning process concludes, simply switch off the pressure washer and allow the deck to air dry naturally.

Timing is a critical aspect of understanding how to clean a deck. The ideal moment for deck washing is during hot summer days, as the swifter drying time is advantageous. Prolonged moisture exposure, which can occur if the wood dries too slowly, may potentially lead to warping, although this is relatively rare.

Therefore, it’s advisable to schedule your deck cleaning activities for warmer and drier days to minimize such risks. Mastering the art of how to clean a deck includes not only technique but also thoughtful timing.

Stainer or Brightener

If you’re thinking of going the extra mile and staining your deck, it can transform your garden space. If the wood on your deck is stained and/or has any type of mold or mildew on it, you can use a deck cleaner that has sodium hydroxide.

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Most of the time, the product will be advertised as a brightener for wood decks and made specifically for pressure washers. You’ll just have to make sure your particular brand of pressure washer accommodates the intake of cleaning solutions

Naturally, you should only mix up the solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After you apply the stripper/brightening solution, make sure you rinse it with plain water afterward. These products also tend to make the wood fibers a little on the rough side, which means that after you use them and before you re-stain or seal your wood, you should sand the deck completely first.

Also, note that these strippers/brighteners are usually toxic to plants, so make sure you cover your plants and shrubs with plastic before you get started so that none of the solution gets on them.

Sanding Your Deck

Before starting to use your sandpaper, decide if you need to spot sand or sand the entire deck. Keep in mind that the raised wood fibers can cause splinters, and this usually happens on handrails and similar areas. This is why sanding your deck is so important before you re-stain or seal the deck.

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The first thing you’ll want to do is wait until the deck is completely dry before you start sanding. The second thing you’ll want to do is use the right type of sandpaper.Sanding not only smooths out the rough edges of the wood fiber, but it also opens up the wood’s pores so that the stain or sealer soaks up in a consistent manner.

Never use very fine sandpaper because it can actually clog the wood pores instead of opening them up. When sanding down the handrail, use sandpaper that is no finer than 100-grit. Use 60- to 80-grit sandpaper for the surface of the deck itself. You can either sand by hand or use a motorized sander with a 5-inch sanding pad. The latter is likely to be much easier on you, of course.

Are You Ready to Get Started?

Discovering how to clean a deck using your pressure washer can transform this task into an enjoyable experience, provided you prioritize safety measures. To truly grasp how to clean a deck effectively, it’s crucial to ensure a safe working environment.

By mastering how to clean a deck properly, you’re essentially investing in its long-term well-being. This regular maintenance ensures that your deck remains in its prime condition throughout your ownership.

The remarkable speed and efficiency of using a pressure washer make it a high-return investment when it comes to deck care.

If you’re new to this type of project, it’s paramount that you absorb and apply all the invaluable tips mentioned in this article. This thorough understanding of how to clean a deck will equip you with the knowledge needed to ensure a seamless and successful experience when you embark on your deck cleaning journey.

If you’ve never before done this type of job, it’s important that you pay attention to all of the tips mentioned in this article so that things go smoothly once you get started.

Most homeowners do well with a basic electric pressure washer, which typically accommodates up to around 2,300 PSI. This is more than enough power and pressure to get your wood deck super clean, especially if you remember to use the right nozzle.

Stay from six inches to two feet from the deck itself, and use no more than around 1,200 PSI – lower for softwoods. However, to avoid being a statistic and injuring yourself with your pressure washer,  use it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and adhere to the right dress code.

Final Words

Pressure-washing your deck is a fulfilling experience and can make that deck look amazing. Once you get used to using a pressure washer, it isn’t tricky to do, so having one in your possession is always a good idea, especially once you realize everything you can do with it.

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